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Staying safe and government guidance

We're here for you if you want to talk

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Coronavirus and school

This page tells you what we know about the risk of children catching and spreading coronavirus, the risk at school, and practical steps you can take to protect your family.

Guidance for schools in your area

What we know about children, coronavirus and schools

Page last updated: 31 August 2021

Evidence is still being gathered about how coronavirus affects children and young adults, and what their role is in transmitting the virus to others. Not all studies agree on their findings, but overall research seems to show that:

  • children experience a milder disease than adults
  • children are less likely to pass coronavirus on to adults or other children
  • older children and teenagers (secondary school age) may be more likely to pass it on to others than younger children.

Research since the beginning of the pandemic suggests that the number of coronavirus cases in schools reflects the number of cases in the local community. A recent article looking at 19 research studies from around the world (a meta-analysis) concludes that covid transmission in schools is lower than it is in households.

However, this research was carried out before the Delta variant became the dominant variant in the UK. So we don't know if it gives an accurate picture of what will happen in schools this autumn.

Coping with risk

Schools across the UK are open for face-to-face teaching this autumn. Children are required to attend in person, unless they are ill, or have been advised by their medical team to stay at home because they're vulnerable to coronavirus (see "If your child has blood cancer" below).

Missing school can have significant educational, social and emotional disadvantages for children and young people, which is why governments expect attendance to be as high as possible and will only close schools as a last resort. At the same time, we know that the covid vaccine may not give full protection to adults with blood cancer who are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group. So it's understandably worrying if you or another adult in your household is clinically extremely vulnerable and you have a child at school.

If you're in this situation, here are some things that may help:

  • It may help to read our information about coping with risk and uncertainty.
  • You might also want to talk through your concerns with our Support Service, or find out how other parents feel on our online community forum.
  • Government guidance to schools has changed so even if you spoke to your child's school last year, you may want to talk to them again. Ask what measures they are taking now to protect students and the wider school community.
  • At home, there are practical things you can do to lower the risk in your household. See "Ways to protect yourself at home" below.
  • Stick to social distancing at the school gate. The risk is lower when you're outside, but staying at least a metre away from other people will lower it further.
  • If you would like tips on how to cope with anxiety about this or any other aspect of living with blood cancer, see our information on mind and emotions.

Vaccinations for household contacts aged 12 to 15

Your risk of catching coronavirus is lower if the people you are closest to are vaccinated against it. That's because people who are vaccinated are less likely to catch and pass on the virus.

If your child is aged 12 to 15 years, they can be vaccinated as a household contact of someone with blood cancer. If they haven't already had it, find out how they can get the vaccine now.

If your child has blood cancer

Some children with blood cancer are expected to go to school. Others are considered too vulnerable, but this probably would have been the case even before coronavirus, because their risk of serious illness from infection is high in general. Your child's medical team will advise you on the situation for your child.

Evidence about the risk of coronavirus to children with cancer suggests that the impact is less severe than people thought at the beginning of the pandemic. A UK study suggests that children with cancer who contract coronavirus are not at any more risk of serious infection than children in the general population. Medical guidance now groups children into two risk groups:

  • Vulnerable – they can attend school.
  • Extremely vulnerable – they should not attend school, but their siblings can.

Find out more about which children with blood cancer are in each group, but remember to talk to your child's medical team about what they advise in your child's circumstances.

Covid vaccination for 12 to 15s with cancer

Children aged 12 to 15 years who are at risk from coronavirus can now get the covid vaccine. Because your child's immune system is likely to be weakened by the blood cancer, it may not work as well as it would if their immune system was functioning normally, but may give some protection. Speak to your child's medical team about the best time for your child to have it.

Siblings and any other household contacts aged 12 to 15 can also get the vaccine. This helps lower the chance of them catching and passing it on.

CCLG has more information about covid vaccination for 12-15s with cancer.

Concerns about your child going to school

It's a worrying time for many parents of children with blood cancer. Do speak to your medical team about your child's level of risk and what you can do to limit the risks – they are there to help you through this.

Here are some other things that can help:

  • Talk to your child’s school about current measures to lower the risk of coronavirus spreading.
  • Follow strict hygiene practices at home – see "Ways to protect yourself at home" below.
  • Talk to us – we’re here to listen and support you.
  • Talk to other parents on our online community forum.
  • See our information on mind and emotions for ideas on coping with anxiety.

For more information, see the COVID-19 guidance for children and young people with cancer undergoing treatment from CCLG

Young Lives vs Cancer has information to support schools with pupils with cancer.

What schools are doing this autumn

The four governments of the UK produce guidance for schools on how to operate safely. There are variations in the guidance across the different countries (see the links at the top of this page) but the principles are the same.

For specific information about your child’s school, contact the school directly. They should be willing to discuss any concerns you have and may share their risk assessment with you if you ask them.

We’ve summarised here some of things UK schools are doing to protect pupils, staff and families:

  • Risk assessments – Schools are expected to complete a risk assessment to highlight what the risks are and how to lower them.
  • Hand hygiene – Children will be supported to clean their hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitiser on a regular basis.
  • Catch it, bin it, kill it – Schools will encourage children to catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, bin the tissue, then clean their hands.
  • Regular cleaning – Schools are expected to arrange more regular cleaning of shared areas and toilets, particularly surfaces that are touched more often. Toys and play equipment will also be cleaned more often.
  • Fresh air – Schools must take steps to keep communal areas well ventilated.
  • Testing – There may be some supervised tests in school for older children and schools in your area may give out free testing kits to use at home. (You can also get your own free lateral flow tests.)
  • Managing pupils who are unwell – Anyone who becomes ill at school will be isolated until they can be sent home. Staff will wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when looking after children who are unwell.
  • Contingency plans – Schools must make sure they understand how to respond if they have a confirmed case of coronavirus. If there's an outbreak, they'll be supported by local public health advisers.

What's changed since the summer term

Overall, the guidance to schools has relaxed in the following ways:

  • Face coverings are no longer required in schools in England and Wales, although they should be worn when secondary age children are travelling to school on public or school transport. They are recommended in some situations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Bubbles or groups in school are no longer required in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Social distancing in schools is no longer required in England although it is being retained where possible in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Self-isolation rules after coming into contact with covid have changed: children, young adults (under 18½) and fully-vaccinated adults will be advised to take a PCR test and won't need to self-isolate if it's negative.
  • Contact tracing is no longer the responsibility of schools, but they are expected to support NHS tracing services if needed.

Ways to protect yourself at home

You and others in your household, including children, can lower the level of risk from coronavirus by strictly following these hygiene rules:

  • Regularly wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water. Wash your hands straight away if you’ve been out anywhere, including to school.
  • Use hand sanitiser when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects like door handles, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
  • Consider keeping separate towels, crockery and cutlery for anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.
  • Wash school clothes more frequently than you usually would.

As an extra precaution, you could also ask your child to change clothes when they come in from school, and keep school and home clothes separate from each other.

Join our online community forum

Connect with other people affected by blood cancer who have school-age children. Check out our thread on children returning to school and find people who understand.

Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer

Join our mailing list for key updates about coronavirus for people with blood cancer, what we're doing to help, and ways you can help, including campaigns you may be interested in.

Support for you

Call our free and confidential support line on 0808 2080 888. We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.

Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.

You can also find out what's helping other people affected by blood cancer through coronavirus and beyond in our pages on living well with or after blood cancer.

The following companies have provided funding for our coronavirus support, but have had no further input: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Gilead, Incyte, Kyowa Kirin, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda.

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]